Written by Nicklaus Denning at At The Hive.com
The Charlotte Hornets work in mysterious ways. Rumors almost never leak, and they operate with such subtlety that it’s almost always a shock to see their name linked with any potential trade. It isn’t glamorous, but it’s preferable to the firestorm other teams often stir.
While the likes of Dan Gilbert, Paul George, and Los Angeles Lakers collectively set the league on fire this past weekend, Charlotte silently navigated one of the most significant trades in the franchise’s history Tuesday evening, acquiring Dwight Howard and the 31st pick of the 2017 NBA draft in exchange for Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli, and the 41st pick. Given how they operate, it shouldn’t have been surprising, and yet it was hard not wonder whether it had actually happened or not.
Rich Cho managed to flip one of the worst trades he’s ever made, acquiring Plumlee last February, without sacrificing a single asset. Howard’s contract is massive — he’ll make $47 million over the next two seasons — but that last part is key: where Plumlee was under contract for three more seasons, Howard is for just two. That’s significant, because when his contract expires, the Hornets will more than likely be looking to extend Kemba Walker, and now won’t have to worry about the last year of Plumlee’s contract on the salary cap.
Plus, even though he’s aging and out of favor with his previous two teams, Howard is a significant upgrade. He’s not the All-Star center from his days in Orlando, but he averaged 13.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks last season, numbers not quite seen from a Hornets center since Al Jefferson. Unlike Big Al, Howard brings an actual defensive presence the Hornets have lacked for a few seasons.
There are concerns, of course. Howard’s play has declined the past two seasons, and there have always been questions as to how he gets along, or rather doesn’t, with teammates and coaches.
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